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Bonus Post: The Beyonce Conversation

I think even people living under a rock found out about Beyonce’s surprise new album that dropped this week.

The reactions to her musical colossus were all over the place. It left culture and music critics scrambling to figure out how to describe it and define it. The feminists were in a tizzy about how feminist it was or it was not. People who weren’t big fans of hers were irritated with the saturation of their social media timelines and the fans/stans/etc. their cult-like praise was in over drive.

So people have been sending me the articles either in favor of, or against Mrs. Carter, Beyzus, Yonce, Sasha Fierce, Peaches, Baddie Bey, King Bey or whatever you want to call her.

My feelings are mixed. I was accused of being a stan this week when I was reacting to Bey’s whopping 17 videos released with the album on Twitter. Because they were all pretty awesome and visually stunning. Then on the flipside, I was sent a link that was basically ripping Bey to pieces and saying she is a horrible person for black or brown women to aspire to be.

Here’s where I fall, in case yall wanted to know or care. And you may be so tired of Beyonce right now, that you don’t feel like reading yet another blog post or article about her. Here is what I wrote to the person who sent me the more negative link.

When Beyonce came out with Destiny’s Child, I didn’t like her. I was shamed into not liking her because she was always singing lead, she was the light-skinned girl and her daddy managed the group. I was shamed into not supporting her because if I did, it would affirm to others that I believed light-skinned girls were prettier and better than everyone else and they were allowed to have the spotlight regardless. As a light-skinned girl who saw the beauty in all women, I didn’t want people to think that. Folks assumed that about me anyway. Me and Bey are basically the same age. I could not openly stan for Bey. So while I enjoyed DC’s music, I publicly hated Beyonce. Made jokes about how she won’t let the other girls sing, and I gushed about Kelly and said LaTavia seemed to have the spunk of the group. Greg made fun of me about what a Bey hater I was and he even brought up the light-skinned thing. I shrugged him off, but he was right.

Some time had passed and VH1s Divas came on. Beyonce was about to break out in her solo career and she preformed “Dangerously in Love.” And.She.Nailed it. She wore a gorgeous gown and sang her face off with so much soul. You could tell she wanted to prove to everyone she was much more than the lead singer of a group and that she deserved her spot in the light. At that point, I felt like she finally “earned” my respect. I’ve seen Beyonce shows. That woman works hard and has so many people picking at everything she does. Beyonce hasn’t gotten into any major trouble, she’s been meticulous about her brand, she is a philanthropist and does a lot of work for women and children in Houston, back home. And you can tell she admires smart people. She stans for Michelle Obama because she is so educated and has used her mind to be successful. To me, that says a lot about Beyonce and the kind of woman she wants to be, and the woman people assume she is.

I think the hero-worship and fandom/standom is scary. But I actually respect Beyonce a great deal. I can respect anyone who is a hard worker and she really works at what she does and has high expectations, down to every detail. I think it’s safe to say, she pushes herself to new levels all of the time. If every fan decided to work at what they do with the same vigor, despite haters and negative talk about them, we would have a nation of very strong, capable people. If Beyonce can inspire women to be better and work harder, that’s the message that should get out there. But because people are so stupid, they take a lot of stuff at face value and they just want to be rich and beautiful and sexy. I love the fact that people of all cultures and mainstream and black magazines alike are really trying to dissect her latest album and discuss feminism and culture and how black women are looked at. There’s another article floating around that Beyonce isn’t for regular black women because she flaunts her wealth. What who and what is a regular black woman? After reading a powerful and sad article in the Washington Post about a woman waiting on her assistance on the 8th of every month and getting her children to apply for ebt cards so they can get more food for the family, that’s not me either. I’m not knocking that woman. But let’s face it. The world either wants me to be her, or Sharkeshia. They don’t even expect me to be Beyonce. That’s all we have. That’s mostly what the media wants to project us to be. I’m not even Michelle Obama, but I can still relate to her. And thank God she’s real. She’s not an actress, she’s a real person who worked hard, and achieved and landed in one of the most powerful houses in the land. But among those figures, it seems like black women don’t have much wiggle room and that bothers me. Because I know all kinds of black women. Funny, serious, silly, sexy. Hard-working. Impressive, quiet, loud, sensitive, courageous.

I appreciate the conversations Beyonce is generating.  That says a lot about her influence. You can’t be mad at that. I’m not. She had all the intellectual black women going nuts at the fact she sampled Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s recent TED talk in her song “Flawless.” I went nuts too, because I recently watched that video the week before and loved everything that young woman said. I plan to purchase and read some of her books over the holiday.

That is not the move of a vapid, pop star. Something else is evolving as Beyonce matures and I’m probably going to like her music even more going forward, because even though I’m not a wealthy, beloved pop star and sex symbol, I’m a woman in my 30s, feeling more comfortable in who I am, and making firm decisions about how I define my life, and success and love. I better understand my value, my faults, what I know, what I don’t know. What makes me happy. What I need to leave alone and what I need to do to make my life fuller. That my inner voice is very real, and should have a significant vote.

I don’t like how people attack her for being proud of being a wife. Black women should want to have in tact families and be in healthy relationships where there is genuine love, respect and partnership. And even though I would have never seen it coming, she coming from a two parent upper middle class family and Jay, coming from the projects with a dad who left, their relationship should give folks hope that it can be done.

I don’t like the vitriolic hate and I don’t like the religion-like cult blind allegiance either. But that heifer works hard. She’s not Kim K. She works for everything she’s got. Period. And she continues to push herself. Bey could be lazy at this point. But nope. She was quoted saying she put this album out the way she did because she was “bored” with the traditional way it was done. She knew she had the power and the influence to just drop it. Surprise. She knows her fans, her brand and her product. Folks are scrambling. You know Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, they are all taking notes. Record company execs minds are blown right now. Who’s going to try it next? When you can have confidence and power to take risks, that’s real power. That’s higher level thinking. Regular broads won’t wrap their heads around it. That is being a bawse. That’s moving up from a 2000 focus to a 2013 elantra. LOL.

I don’t think I’m a stan. Because I don’t want to be Beyonce. But I salute any woman who is on her grind, who pushes herself even when she really doesn’t have to and inspires others to do the same. Do I feel sexy when I play her music? Yes. I like dancing around in my heels and panties and pretending I’m a vixen too and then I put on my clothes and go to work. I like that she’s saying as women we really do have a choice to be those things. As a journalist, I respect anyone who creates legitimate conversation on real things. And love her or hate her, the conversations have been created and will continue.

Bow Down Bitches: On Ratchet Alter Egos

Oh, Beyonce.

She released a new track that has created a lot of buzz, but not in a good way.

The song tells her haters and those who want to be her to simply, “bow down bitches.”

A number of bloggers and angry folks are saying she’s at the top of her game and doesn’t even need to tell her haters to bow down. Too boot, she has won the public admiration of First Lady Michelle Obama as well as the Obama girls, sang at both inaugurations and she’s just squandered that relationship by putting out such a ratchet track.

Let us keep in mind, that Beyonce may have fleeting moments of ego and cusses from time-to-time, but for some reason she went all out in this new song. But folks, let us not forget the line, “Fuck you, pay me” (Girls run the world).

We loved her alter ego Sasha Fierce, the muse she calls upon when performing such high-energy, sexy shows, who seems to be directly opposite from her seemingly more quiet, private demeanor. But that’s just it.

She seems to be quiet and private.

Folks were also outraged because now she’s a mom, to a little baby girl. Why should she be calling people bitches and tricks now?

Thing is, celebrities we put in boxes or up on pedestals often want to break out, try something different and be themselves or show other versions of themselves. Folks who are saying this isn’t her, eh, I beg to differ. I think that side is a part of her. It may not be a prominent side to who she is, and Bey has never truly been “hood,” but neither have I. I’ve always been “hood adjacent” and can mingle in a variety of worlds. I actually pride myself on my ability to do just that.

So let’s talk about me.

I think I’m a classy, educated, conscious person.

But I can be crass, vulgar and absurd.

I can drop it like it’s hot, I can make it clap. I can drink grown men under the table. I love whiskey. I love hip hop and can recite the nastiest lyrics by Lil Kim at the top of my lungs. Ghostface Killah is my favorite member of the Wu Tang Clan. In the privacy of my home, or on a beach, I love booty shorts. I own a pair of Timberland boots, and I have a few wifebeaters I wear with no bra around my house, left behind from old lovers. That part of myself is just as real as the part that loves PBS, books, documentaries and arguing about politics.

I was just listening to an amazing podcast out of Stanford University, led by the amazing Joan Morgan, about black women, sexuality, hip hop and how we are viewed and how black women really aren’t free sexually. It’s called “Pleasure Principle.” It’s on itunes for free. An enlightening hour of awesome. So serious. We were sexual objects in slavery, and because of our African roots and the shape of our bodies, we were seen as exotic, but we were also seen as primitive. The thought was we’d do any and everything sexually and that it was ok because hey, we were made that way. We would be the yang to the elevated, pure, white woman’s yin.

Unfortunately, music videos or reality t.v. do not help the cause in terms of changing the sexual reputation of women of color. And a lot of young women don’t have the historical context to stop themselves from the allure of money and fame and attention from rich athletes or music stars to just not participate in these types of activities. Some of them argue they are sexually liberated. And wield this public display and the ability to profit off of it as sexual power.

Meanwhile, on the flip side, to make up for all of that, a number of black women have been told to cover up even more, to be more sexually conservative because of the influence of religion and to be “good girls.” I know I was one of them.

We have all of these clashing views to tip-toe in between and meanwhile, as the lovely scholars pointed out in the podcast, while the music demeans us, we still feel compelled to dance to it, to sing along to it. There is a pleasure in it. The question is should we be ashamed of our bodies? The way we move our bodies? All of that.

So which woman is truly free? That’s the question modern feminists are asking. It’s a great question and one that is worth deep discussion.

I’m not saying Beyonce is the latest and greatest black feminist. She is an artist, she is a grown woman and has the right to experiment with her art, but she is also a role model to a lot of people. If you’ve ever gone to one of her shows, you see a cross-section of ages and races. In my opinion, she’s allowed to have a ratchet side, however she has to be responsible. So maybe she should leave her ratchet side at home and in a safe, non-judgemental place among her closest friends.

That’s what me and all of my well-educated, proper girlfriends do…

Livin La Vida Beyonce

I’ve got to hand it to this chick.

She keeps folks wanting more and when she gives it, she doesn’t disappoint, but still manages to do it on her own terms.

Folks have been itching for a glimpse into Mrs. Carter’s personal life for several years now, and finally she gives us a taste…well sort of.

I probably viewed at least 40 pics on her new tumblr site, that according to other blogs I’ve read was a collection of photos to celebrate her 4th wedding anniversary to Jay-Z. But I’ve just seen mostly photos of Queen Bey.

They were all fabulous. Even the ones where she was wearing little or no makeup (thank you for keeping it real).

Even the random non-Bey photos of things like flowers or a tree branch that formed the lowercase letter b, or hers and jay’s initials written in the sand from some awesome locale were cool in my opinion.

This was the one time, I kind of felt like I got an insight into Beyoncé’s quirkiness and humanness. I’d totally stop and take a photo of an L shaped vine in a heartbeat. I particularly enjoyed the photos she took with her sister Solange. I just saw my sister (and nephew) this weekend, and I didn’t take any photos with her! Shame on me.

I dig this tumblr page not because Beyoncé is all fabulous and having experiences I will never have (Jealous much? Kind of.), but I dig it because it tells me we all can live our versions of la vida Beyoncé, if like her, we take in every moment.

Like for real.

From these photos, I don’t sense that she’s flaunting her extravagant life (world travel, yachts, etc…) but instead giving thanks for it by recognizing she clearly does not live the ordinary life.

Now, I’m not going to stop and take a picture of everything or have folks take pics of me everywhere I go, but taking photos of moments awesome and mundane to remember and document our lives is a must. Being 80’s babies, I think both Bey’s parents and mine went nuts with cameras and photographing, then video recording everything.

Personal cameras and advances in photo printing during that time really paved the way for digital, and probably contributed to the popularity of Facebook and why a lot of people can’t even think of taking photos without posting them to Facebook immediately after.

My generation and the generations after have always loved the camera. No wonder we are so self-centered…

I still pull out photos from college, vacations, and most recently my 30th birthday and I swear, I look just as vivacious, sexy and happy as Beyoncé with a fraction of the bank account.

It’s a life well-lived, and I can’t wait to do and see more… and take the pictures!

Music Video Choreography: A No-No in Public

I’m going to have to do a three-part series on “going out when you are almost 30.”

Because things change. Even in how you party.

What you wear, how much you are drinking, what you are drinking, how long you are willing to stay, how (seductively)you dance, whether you are willing to pay and how much you are willing to pay to be in the place are things you give serious thought to as you get older. Furthermore, there’s just stuff you’ve decided that you just won’t do anymore.

Speaking of which, I recently learned that had I stopped doing one particular thing when I saw a girl in her early 20’s doing it.

I was recently at a party where it was a mixed crowd of upstart college journalists all the way to battle-tested, seasoned veterans. If you have ever seen Beyonce’s video for Girls Run the World, you know it’s quite complicated. I admit I’ve tried to do that shoulder bounce she does in the beginning in my bathroom mirror a couple of times. This is acceptable. It’s cute within the confines of my home when I’m alone.

But lo and behold, one of the youngins, a slim, good-looking girl is right on que busting the difficult moves in the middle of the party. I figured she’d stop at the opening shoulder bounce, but she handily made it into the second verse before stopping after realizing she had an audience besides her friends. It also didn’t help that I was yelling, “Look yall, she knows the whole routine!”

I can’t hate on her. I thought she did an excellent job. I wish I had that I still had that much time on my hands. When I did have that much time on my hands, I won’t lie. I too had a couple of routines that I learned and was happily proud to show off when I went out. Feel free to laugh.

Dru Hill’s sleeping in my bed remix.

Aaliyah’s Rock the Boat (my personal fav).

Brandy’s hand/arm thing in the I want to be down video.

The last time I tried to learn choreography to a music video was when the uber infectious “Single Ladies” (yet another Beyonce anthem) came out. That ended in me and a dear girlfriend out of breath and passed out on the floor laughing hysterically at how ridiculous we both looked.

These days, the most work I’ve put into learning a dance is probably the wobble wobble. I still don’t completely have it.

So yeah. If you are turning 30 like me, and you aren’t a professional dancer or a dance teacher, you may want to keep the complicated routines in the privacy of your own home or else you will be that “old head” you used to make fun of when you were in your early 20s.

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